[Hallyupedia] Squid Game (오징어게임 or 오징어놀이)

나확진/인턴 이효윤 / 2021-09-25 07:00:41
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by Ra Hwak Jin / Lee Hyo Yoon

[ENG] A game played in two teams, attack and defense, in a squid-shape drawn on a flat ground


▲ This photo, a captured image of MBC Infinite Challenge YouTube clip, shows Squid Game. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


Squid Game is named after its squid-like lines drawn in which the participants play the game.

Though its shapes may differ depending on regions, they all include a circle, a triangle and a square.

The game was usually played by boys on a wide and flat grounds like a yard.

Before the 1980s, when there were no PC or mobile games, elementary school students playing Squid Game could be easily seen. The grounds at the time were usually grassless and made of soil, so the children drew the squid shape scattering water.

Nowadays it is hard to see such games as children play-cultures have changed with the appearance of PC rooms and mobile games. Moreover, as the school grounds are covered with artificial grass it is difficult to draw the squid for the game.

Usually, 8~10 people gather to play the game. But even over 20 people can join the game by drawing the squid larger.

The basic shape of the squid looks like the image below, according to the Encyclopedia of Korea Folk Culture by the National Folk Museum of Korea. Depending on times and places, variations, such as more circle shapes, can be added.

▲ This image, provided by the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture by the National Folk Museum of Korea, shows the squid-shaped game board for Squid Game. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 

◇ Game starts with two teams… when players are odd number, one is a ‘kkakdugi’

First the game starts by dividing the players into two teams. There are many ways to sort the players into teams such as two lead players picking their teammates one by one, all players putting out one of their hands with the palm facing either up or down and binding those who have their palm in the same side in the same team or doing rock-scissors-papers in pairs and dividing the teams by winners and losers.

The two team’s number are the same. If the total participants are odd numbers, the left one is called a ‘kkakdugi’ and can choose any side. Most of the times, the kkakdugi is added to the attackers. Usually, kkakdguis are those who do not get chosen into a team due to young age or small body.

▲ This photo, a captured image of MBC Infinite Challenge YouTube clip, shows Squid Game. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


◇ Physical fights happen divided into attack-defense…sometimes get hurt

Once the children are divided into teams, each side chooses either attack or defense by rock-scissors-papers between the head players. The attackers move into the circle at the top which is the head of the squid, and the defenders stand in the squid’s body. The bottom circle acts as the path that both teams can cross.

All players have to jump around with one foot outside their territory. In the pathway everyone is allowed to use both legs. In some cases, additional circle called ‘safe zone’ where everyone can use both legs can be drawn.

Physical fights such as pushing or pulling to knock down the opponents are permitted. The fights could be overheated, and players sometimes could hurt their legs.

If any attacker makes it into the squid’s body part through the defenders and steps the line between the head and the body (called ‘mansaetong’ depending on region), the attacker’s team wins.

The defenders win when they manage to make all the attacker out. Of course, the attackers can win by making all the defenders out as well but stepping the mansaetong is an easier way.

Players ‘die’ in the following cases. Of course, it is not a literal death but being excluded from the game. If a player dies, he or she has to stay out of the squid-lines and wait until the game ends.

- When step on a line
- When both legs touch the ground together when have to hop with one leg
- When knocked down to the ground
- When dragged in or out to cross the boundary into the opponent’s territory

The attackers can move with both legs out their home when they have crossed the narrow river in the middle of the squid. So, the defenders must protect the river to prevent the attackers from crossing it.

Unlike the attackers, defenders have no way to enable using both legs outside their home. But, as the attackers must enter the defenders’ house in order to win, we can’t say that the game is totally unfair for the defenders.

When the first-round finishes, the winner takes the attack-side for the next. All the dead can join the next round as well.

▲  This photo, a captured image of MBC Infinite Challenge YouTube clip, shows Squid Game. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 

◇ ‘Gaisang’ (translated) in the game’s title…assumed to have been from the Japanese Colonial

The most common name of the Squid Game is “Squid Gaisang” (translated), according to the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture.

The word ‘gaisang’ is a Japanese word ‘Kaisen’ (かいせん) which means the start of a fight. Some Korean traditional games have this Japanese term at the tails of their names. This phenomenon is seen as a trace from the Japanese Colonial period, but it has been cleared away these days, the Encyclopedia of Korea Folk Culture explained.

◇ Korean series featuring Squid Game has gone viral

This traditional game has risen to an issue due to a recent Netflix original series “Squid Game” featuring the game. The logo of the organization hosting the cruel survival-game is made up of the circle, triangle and square from the squid game. But the game in reality rarely starts in 1:1 like the film. The game is usually played by multiple children in a neighborhood, and it is hard for just two players to draw the giant squid.


Meanwhile, as the series "Squid Game" has gained global population, a YouTube video clip of MBC variety program "Infinite Challenge"'s 10-year ago 2011 episode "Myung-soo Is 12 Years Old" in which the members played the squid game has become an issue as well.  



▲ This photo, providied by Netflix, shows the poster of 'Squid Game'



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